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Guns for God?

Posted: Jun 28, 2009

"I don't see any contradiction in this. Not every Christian denomination is pacifist."
- Ken Pagano, the pastor of the New Bethel Church in Kentucky, who is encouraging members of his congregation to bring guns to church on Saturday. (New York Times, June 26. Photo courtesy of Jim Winn NYT)

I have heard criticism about "buffet style" Christianity all my life, the pick and choose kind (this is good, that is not), but to have Christians actively asserting that God loves guns is pretty hard to take. I admit that, like the character Sportin' LIfe in Porgy and Bess, "I takes that gospel whenever it's possible but with a grain of salt." If what I read does not seem to be coherent with the core message of Jesus, I tend to attribute the discrepancy to scribal redaction or interpolation.

I understand the right to bear arms. I support our troops. I believe in the right of the individual to defend his/her life, family, and property. I have even hunted (deer, waterfowl, and dove), although not very happily, and fortunately, I am not a very good shot. I do not own a gun, but I defend the right of others to do so. However, I just have difficulty reconciling the idea of Christian love and the admonition of Jesus  for us to "turn the other cheek" with the concept of guns in church.

Years ago when my life was threatened by a young man who was a psychiatric casualty of Desert Storm, I understood the meaning of fear. Fear is something that you cannot see that threatens you beyond your control. Old sci fi and horror movies were all the more terrifying because you could never see the terror, just feel it, and you never knew when it might strike. Such was the plight of my daughter and myself. Our stalker would call at regular intervals to say that he was coming to kill us. He knew who I was as well as the rest of my family. He had probably taken classes at Athens State where I taught. I knew he could find me.

One day he called and said, "I am coming tonight to beat you to death with a baseball bat." I asked my daughter if she wanted to go to a friend's house, feeling fairly confident that our would-be killer would not appear. We agreed to wait it out. About 8 pm my daughter announced, "I just wish I knew what time he was coming to kill us!"  She is quite a wit, but I don't think she intended the remark to be as funny as it sounded. I understood exactly what she meant. It is the not knowing that is unbearable.

Since her father had trained her to use a hand gun, I suggested we call him and borrow his gun. Then a discussion ensued about which of us would actually shoot the intruder. I recommended that since she had experience firing a handgun that she should shoot him and then I would overpower him, once he was wounded, and hit him with his own baseball bat. This did not sit well with my daughter. "Why can't you shoot him?" she demanded, "You're the mother!" I had to agree that sounded quite logical, but I warned her that I had never ever fired a handgun and would likely miss with every shot.

At that point, we got up and went to a friend's house for the remainder of the night. A week or so later, the young man was arrested. It appears he had also threatened the life of the Baptist minister. The minister had managed to get all the phone calls on a message tape since he and his family were out of town at the time. Our would-be killer was sent to the state mental institution.

Would I have felt safer with a gun in the house? I doubt it. Guns are just not my thing. But as I said before, I will defend with my last breath the right to bear arms. I just have a little problem with the idea that Jesus would.

---Penne J. Laubenthal

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PenneElk says...

Yes, I was called also and they asked for my ex-husband by name so I said he no longer lived here--which was the truth. I got no more calls. As for discrimination against women, I hope you saw my article on Lilly Ledbetter. :-)

cgregg says...

My conciencious objector husband (Vietnam era) and I have been getting phone calls from the NRA since the new and revised gun bill has been back in debate. A young (sounding) male calls the house during the day when my husband is working, asks for my husband by name and inquires as to whether this is his residence, identifies himself, and asks if my husband is home. When I say, "NO, can I help you," he says he'll call back. My husband and I had talked about these calls, and we were both aggravated that on the basis of my womanhood, I was immediately rejected as "NOT the head of household," and deemed unworthy of being lobbied by a telemarketer. The last time the NRA called, I disguised my voice (very badly--but I don't really care how weird the NRA thinks my husband sounds). As the caller suspiciously began his spiel about the dangers of the gun control law, I hoarsely interrupted with, "Yes, and I would be in favor of that law." He went on for a sentence or two, then stopped and said, "WHAT?" I repeated my statement, my voice now hoarse, and cracking with suppressed laughter. He thanked me and hung up. We had a good laugh when my husband came home. (And by the way, I do own a gun--the only gun in my household--and plan to keep it).

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